Recording industry to cut size of CD boxes

February 28, 1992|By Sheila Rule | Sheila Rule,New York Times News Service

Responding to widespread environmental concern, the recording industry said yesterday that it would replace the long cardboard or plastic display boxes in which it sells compact disks with packaging no bigger than the small plastic container that holds the disk.

Jay Berman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the group's members -- companies that produce and distribute more than 95 percent of the recorded music sold in the United States -- had agreed that as of April 1993, no new releases would be packaged in the 6-by-12-inch boxes, which buyers throw away. They have adopted a size that measures 5 by 5.5 inches.

Other details will be left to individual record companies but the final products are to have little if any disposable packaging.

The biggest members of the group are Bertelsmann, EMI, MCA, Polygram, Sony and Warner.

The National Association of Recording Merchandisers, the trade association representing retailers and wholesalers, said that while it supports environmentally sound packaging, the new size would pose serious problems for retailers because the compact disks could be more easily shoplifted, were harder to display in an eye-catching fashion and would require costly changes in display bins.

Packaging has been one of the hottest issues involving CDs, about 300 million of which are sold annually in the United States alone.

The long box was designed to be about twice as long as the plastic container holding the compact disk, known as a jewel box, so itwould be harder for a shoplifter to steal and could be stacked in racks once used for long-playing record albums.

But long boxes account for millions of pounds of waste each year and the mounting trash piles prompted an outcry. The Sierra Club says that two of every five pounds of the nation's garbage consists of cardboard and other paper products.

Among the most celebrated critics of the boxes have been recording artists themselves, including Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt and R.E.M.

Daniel J. Weiss, a Sierra Club executive attending the news conference where the announcement was made, responded favorably.

"Eliminating the long box is music to our ears," Mr. Weiss said."Congress must make other industries play the same tune or Americans will still be singing the garbage blues."

The music industry had said last March that the long box would be replaced, and record companies began developing alternatives that require less disposable packaging or that, like a record album cover,are meant to be kept along with the recorded music.

For example, Ivy Hill Corp., the packaging division of Time Warner, whose record labels are Warner Brothers, Elektra and Atlantic, says it plans to sell within a month the Eco-Pak, an attractive container featuring a plastic tray for the disk, surrounded by cardboard.

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